General: The American Robin is one of our most common and
recognizable birds. I always look forward to the first Robin of spring. For
over forty years I have also looked forward to finding discarded pieces of
eggs while walking through my neighborhood in mid-spring (after the chicks
hatch the parents carry the shells away from the nest).
American Robin is a member of the thrush family. In winter Robin roosts can
be huge, sometimes including a quarter-million birds during winter –
something I have witnessed crows doing in winter along the Hudson River in
The American Robin is the state bird of Connecticut,
Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The Robin breeds throughout most of North
America, from Alaska and Canada southward to northern Florida and Mexico.
Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to
pesticide poisoning and can be an indicator of chemical pollution. Robins
found in suburban and urban areas have lead levels in their blood that are
roughly twice as high as robins from rural areas and the amount of lead in
their blood suggest that some symptoms of lead poisoning are being
manifested. Researchers have found that Robins appear to be a favored target
of mosquitoes and many have Nile-Virus antibodies in their blood, this means
that they were infected but have survived. (1)
In spring, males
attract females by singing, raising and spreading their tails, shaking their
wings and inflating their white-striped throats. They nest commonly above
the ground in a bush or in a fork between two tree branches. The female lays
three to five light blue eggs, and is incubates them alone. Incubation is
about 12-14 days, the
chicks are helpless at birth, mostly naked with spare whitish down. They
fledge in about 14-16 days. The adult male and female both are active in
protecting and feeding the fledged chicks until they learn to forage on
their own. Robins usually have 2 broods during breeding season.
Identification: American Robins are fairly large songbirds
with a large, round body, long legs, and fairly long tail. They are 7.9”–11”
long with a wingspan of 12.2”–15.7”. They weigh approximately 2.7–3 oz.
Robins are the largest North American thrushes.
American Robins are
gray-brown with orange under parts and dark heads. In flight, a white patch
on the lower belly and under the tail can be conspicuous. Compared with
males, females have paler heads that contrast less with the gray back.
Habitat: American Robins can be found on lawns in
fields, and city parks, as well as in more wild places like woodlands,
forests, mountains up to near treeline, recently burned forests, and tundra.
During winter many robins move to moist woods where berry-producing trees
and shrubs are common.
Territory: The American Robin
has an extensive range throughout North America, wintering south of Canada
from Florida to central Mexico and along the Pacific Coast.
Migration: Most North American Robins migrate in August to winter
south of Canada from Florida and the Gulf Coast to central Mexico, as well
as along the Pacific Coast.
Food: The Robin’s diet
consists of invertebrates (such as beetle grubs and caterpillars), fruits
and berries. Nestlings are fed mainly on worms and other soft-bodied animal
(1) National Science Foundation: West Nile Virus: The Search
for Answers in Chicago’s Suburbs